Bat Signal

Issue 198 – “The Lord of Batmanor”




Hi there everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order and with virtually no context. And we have a fun issue to talk about today. I mean, look at that cover. Batman’s in a kilt! And, thankfully, today is not one of those issues where the cover is a cruel tease, showing us something absurd that’s not going to actually be featured in the story in the slightest. We really are going to see Batman travel to Scotland in order to solve a mystery. And, to make matters better, we may even see a cameo from the Scotland’s most famous citizen, the Loch Ness Monster. Hope you like bagpipes!

The story begins in Scotland, at a castle that has been known as Batmanor for centuries, all due to the massive population of bats that live on the grounds. The castle has been owned by the McLaughlie family, who have been forced to live in shame for 400 years. The end of the McLaughlie line, Angus McLaughlie is currently on his deathbed, still trying to find the truth of the mystery that has shamed his family. He’s brought an American detective, Sam Smathers to the manor in order to research the mystery, but he’s come up empty-handed, just like everyone else. It turns out that centuries ago the King of Scotland gave Lord McLaughlie a vast sum of gold to protect during a war. Unfortunately, Lord McLaughlie died during the war, and when they came back to retrieve the gold, no one could find it. So, everyone assumed that this was because the McLaughlie’s stole it, and they became known as thieves. Angus spent his entire life bringing in experts to find the gold, and they’ve failed every attempt. But, right as he’s about to die, he has one final idea. Batman!




Yep, Batman. And, how is he going to convince Batman to come to Scotland, especially because he’s about to die? Why, by pulling a Scooby Doo. He makes a last-minute addition to his will, naming Batman as the heir to the Batmanor, figuring that he’d be too intrigued not to come. And, sure enough, he’s right. Because when word reaches Gotham that Batman is now the heir of a castle in Scotland, the Dynamic Duo can’t help but fly out to investigate thing. And, they aren’t the only ones. Turns out that Sam Smathers isn’t actually a detective. He’s a con-man who actually has gotten close to the answer, and has also called in several friends of his to scare off Batman and Robin and steal the gold before they can find it. So now it’s a race!

Batman and Robin fly across the Atlantic in their Batplane, and even succeed in ingratiating themselves with the locals when they manage to deal with a raging fire in the nearby countryside, which Smathers and his friends started in order to cause a distraction. Batman and Robin then get to have a heroes welcome while they get a tour of the Batmanor. They’re warned by a local to beware a ghost who haunts the castle known at the Iron Ghost, but they just kind of let that pass by and keep walking around the manor. Batman’s fascinated by the case, while Robin desperately wants to learn how to play the bagpipes. However, when Robin goes off by himself at one point he runs into what appears to be a person in a suit of armor. He assumes that it’s the Iron Ghost, but before he can think about it too much the Ghost punches him, and knocks him out. Batman finds Robin, and they quickly locate a nearby secret passage, which they assume was the escape-route for the person impersonating the Iron Ghost. However, at the end of the passage they just find a road outside the castle, which Batman makes a couple deductions at.




The Dynamic Duo are out of leads at this point, and the next day continue to investigate the castle and its grounds. Eventually they find their way to an old clocktower, which is run by two massive lead weights. They do go up to the top of the tower, and other than a slight acid-burn they don’t see anything. However, while doing this Batman starts to get frustrated with Robin, who has been wandering around practicing a bagpipe. So, Batman tells Robin to go practice far away, leading the Boy Wonder to hop on a boat and row out into the lake. Which is when something weird happens. While he’s playing his bagpipe a massive creature rises out of the lake, and he panics. He rows back to the land and goes to tell Batman about what happened. Batman assumes that this is ridiculous, but one of the locals swears that the Loch Ness Monster is real, and is probably what Robin saw.

Batman decides they need to investigate the Monster, figuring that it may have something to do with the fake ghost they saw. So, they row out into the lake and start looking for the monster. Batman then starts to connect some correlations, and has Robin play the bagpipe. Sure enough, as soon as he does this the monster reappears, and attacks their ship. However, Batman pretty quickly realizes that the “monster” is actually an elaborate machine. He climbs aboard the monster and finds that it’s been programmed to follow the sounds of a bagpipe. Batman’s able to disable the machine, and in the process notices something else odd. The time on the clock-tower is wrong. So, they race over to the tower and find Smathers and his goons in the process of burning the lead weights off the tower. Turns out that these weights aren’t actually lead, they’re the missing gold. Both Smathers and Batman have solved this riddle, and Batman’s deadset on stopping the criminals. He starts doing battle with them, but Robin has a great idea. He climbs up to the bell and rings it, disorientating the goons enough for Batman to best them. And, with that, the villains are stopped, the gold is recovered, the McLaughlie name is cleared, and the Dynamic Duo return to Gotham, complete with a bagpipe.




This issue is a goddamn hoot. I love just about everything in it, and it’s just a hell of a story. We get to see Batman and Robin leave Gotham and travel to Scotland in order to solve a pretty solid mystery. For being called Detective Comics we just doing get enough stories in this project that really feature a lot of detection. But, this story really scratches that itch. The idea of a disgraced lord having to call Batman in to solve a mystery that has ruined his family’s name for generations is a fantastic one, especially because it leads us to seeing Batman and Robin running around in kilts. There’s legitimate clues tossed into this story, and while the weird American crooks and their Loch Ness Monster robot seem a little weird in the context of the story, but it all ends up working out really well. It’s just a solid issue of comics, and it’s a lot of fun.


“The Lord of Batmanor” was written by Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, penciled by Dick Sprang, inked by Gene McDonald & Charles Paris, and lettered by Pat Gordon, 1953.




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